Careers Service


Researching employers and jobs - 3 how to guides.

Sometimes it can be hard to find a ready made list of employers and understand what they are looking for in an applicant. These 3 sections will help you:

  • Make a list of organisations to apply to.
  • Understand more about the organisation to help you decide if they are right for you.
  • Be clear about the job role and what is expected in terms of skills & experience.

How to make a list of employers

You have decided broadly what job or sector you want to work in, now you need to find some jobs to apply to. Some jobs will be advertised widely on multiple sites and via your careers account - My account, others may be harder to find or may not be advertised at all.

Here are some tips for making a list of employers to start investigating.

  • Organisation directory in CareersLink A company registering an event or vacancy can choose to appear in the directory. So even if they have no vacancies currently advertised with us their website will be listed so that you can search for them, why not search by organisation sector in the advanced search option.
  • Graduate Scheme websites or pick up the directories in the Careers Centre.
  • Sector and industry information Contains links to key job sites for the sector or occupation - you can use these to find out who the typical employers are.
  • Careers Library We have books directories and journals that can not be accessed online. Many journals contain listings of companies, articles about organisations and awards for sector leaders, use them to find out whose who.
  • Starting point guides Downloadable from our website or available to pick up from Careers these guides give you tips on how to find key employers and in many cases long lists of them!
  • Ask the Careers Information Staff The information team have many years of research skills, they can point you in the right direction.
  • Google it! Be prepared to be persistent and keep refining your search terms. Not every result will be relevant or reliable!

Databases provided by the University Library - Login required

  • Markets and sectors information Ideal if you want to get quickly acquainted with a particular sector, product or service. The exec summaries of market research reports provide some good overviews of these. The reports as a whole are an insight not just into the top players but also customer behaviour, future trends and further reading
  • UK companies FAME (Financial Analysis Made Easy) is a useful database of nearly 3 million UK public and private companies’ financials. The data can be manipulated to produce a list of , say, top companies in a certain sector in a certain region.
  • Business News (Factiva and Access World News are the key ones here) Both these news services can give up to the minute views and comment on companies, sectors, leading figures etc. Factiva has added features which can also be useful in job seeking, such as company snapshopts (including top line financial performance, key personnel, latest news on the company’s performance, services, products etc.

Research the employer. Why do you want to work there?

Before you decide to spend lots of time making an application you need to decide if you want to work for this particular organisation. The time wont be wasted, if you do decide to apply for a job or make a speculative application then you will need to do this research for your application, and certainly for interview.

Here are some ideas for things you can investigate.

  • What makes this company different? What are their unique selling points - what differentiates them from their competitors?
  • What products and services do they offer?
  • Who are their clients?
  • Where are they based and where do they do business? Find out about company size, location and business catchment area.
  • What are their values & ethos, do they fit with yours?

You can usually find all this information on their website. Look at the website as if you were a prospective client or wanted to purchase something from them.

If the organisation has a public presence like a shop, hotel, leisure facility or bank visit some of their branches to get a real feel for what they do.

If the organisation makes a product that is sold in supermarkets or stores, go and look at the products, who are they competing with, whats the branding like?

Do they advertise? Check magazines, tv adverts and billboards who are they aiming their marketing at?

Research the job - do you have the skills?

You have seen a job advertised or researched the employer and want to make an application.

You need to be clear:

  • Why you want to do the job? You need to be able to write knowledgeably about it.
  • Why you want to work for them? See previous section.
  • That you have the skills and experience they are looking for.

Some companies will have a full clear job advertisement backed up with further documentation such as person specifications and job descriptions. These are great, they help you decide if you can do the job and craft a clear and well evidenced application or CV.

Sometimes its not that easy.

The job title may be amiguous, the duties unclear and the skills they are looking for sketchy at best. So how can you find out more?

  • Look on the company website is there any further information that helps?
  • Many job advertisements list a contact to talk to about the role. It's a really good idea to ring them, it makes you look serious about your application. Have a list of questions prepared but make sure they are not things you could have found out for yourself, do a bit of research first.
  • Have you seen similar sounding jobs advertised with other organisations? Do they have clearer information about the role? It may not be the same but it can be informative to see how it compares.
  • Use the profiles on the prospects website. They are great for giving a list of typical work activities and skills or aptitudes that you will need to show evidence of on your application.
  • Google it - put the job title in a search engine and see what other similar sounding jobs come up, it might give you some clues as to what the role involves.
  • Talk to us